Judging a Book by it’s Cover

In my younger years I managed a video game store. It’s a job I really enjoyed. It was a slow evening before the Christmas crush kicked in. I had noticed a large family passing by the front of the store. They were dressed in shabby, well worn, clothing. They were all skinny and acted as if they were poor country folk. My immediate reaction was that they probably had little more than the minimum to live on. The smaller children were tugging at their parents arms to try and goad them into our brightly lit store. The parents were obviously of a negative disposition. I mentally agreed with the parents stance as they could obviously not afford the products I sold. They walked away until a little later the entire group walked in. I happily greeted them and engaged the mother in conversation while the children and father looked over the games. Come to find out they lived hours away and were on their yearly trip to the mall as there were no options where they were from. I secretly pitied the family as I answered the myriad of questions the very polite children hurled at me. After a short stay they left with disappointed looks on the children’s faces. Later the father came back, picked out a small armload of items then came to the counter. My brain was wondering what sacrifice was being made to buy something so frivolous. Would they eat this week? I tallied the amount and the dad did not even blink as he pulled out a wad of cash from his pocket. There was more money rolled up in his hand than I made in months! I truly hope he did not notice the stunned look on my face. He paid and left with what I assume were Christmas presents. I had judged that book by it’s cover.

I realized that I had a problem. I do this constantly. Making calls about people with too little information based on dress, color of skin, nationality, political preference and even facial expression. This is bad! John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” It affects my interactions with people and I was realizing that some of my attitudes in this respect were deep routed. Don’t we all do this on some level? The Association of Psychological Science says that we can make judgements on a person after seeing them for only 50 milliseconds. The Apostle Paul understood the problems with this reliance on our own judgement. In Galatians 2 he chastises Peter for separating himself from gentiles because they were not Jews. His judgement of the gentile lifestyle caused a division which dragged others into this negative behavior. Paul attempted to impress upon them that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Shouldn’t we follow the example of Jesus? He engaged all types … men, women, children, unclean, thieves, beggers, blind and tax collectors to name a few. He wasn’t judging at all, just showing his love for them wherever they were in their life. It is nearly impossible for me not to size people up but a verse I like to remember is Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” It reminds me that I am a sinner and need Jesus just like the people I make judgements about. Maybe even more than them if I would be honest with myself.

  1. Think about people or situations you may be judging right now. Make a list if it helps you to visualize.
  2. Ask forgiveness for this sinful nature.
  3. Pray that God would help you change your judgemental thoughts.

That was almost 30 years ago. Admittedly this is still work in progress for me. A constant battle to keep from thinking worst case scenario with almost no information to go on. I had always feared that I would pass this onto my children. Praise God as a couple years ago I witnessed my son be approached by a homeless woman. She appeared legit at first glance but my reaction was of a negative nature. My brain wondered what her issue was. Perhaps lazy, mentally ill or hooked on drugs was my immediate evaluation. I watched as he calmly and lovingly engaged the woman in conversation. She shared a little about her situation. Meanwhile, I am antsy to get to our destination. He wrapped things up by reaching into his wallet and emptying it of his last twenty dollars. My son lovingly engaged this stranger and showed her compassion. John 13:34,35 “…love one another, as I have loved you … by this all men will know that you are my disciples …” My reaction made it impossible for God to use me in this manner. How many other opportunities had I missed due to my split second judgement. It brings tears to my eyes to this day thinking about the awesome testimony my son was making by loving like Jesus. Praise God he did not inherit his father’s judgemental way. My son was a better man than me and making his father and his Father very proud.

My prayer for you is that you would allow God to work out your judgmental attitudes so that you would be able to engage people more lovingly like Jesus.

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